I feel like I’ve got a handle on my life, but my journey to get here has been up and down

I always like a laugh. I’m a happy go lucky guy. When I had my knee replacement operation just before lockdown, I remember joking with the nurse who was taking my stitches out. I don’t even mind having the scar from it because having the operation has meant I’m able to go out walking which I enjoy.

I’m 59 now and I feel like I’ve got a handle on my life. I’m happy and enjoying my independence. But my journey to get here has been up and down.

I spent ten years in prison. When I was there, I took part in a programme where I was able to work in the community. I worked for a priest for about 11 months as a kind of labourer. I did various jobs. It was around that time I met my partner, Katie-Mary and we moved in together. I became an alcoholic. Katie-Mary was an alcoholic when I met her. I became a chronic alcoholic. We drank unbelievable amounts of alcohol for 7 years. Katie-Mary died in front of me. After that I went into a psychiatric hospital for 17 years. I tried supported accommodation for a number of months, but went back into hospital. I ended up getting a referral for the National Psychosis Unit in Kent. I was there for 4 months. It was a fantastic experience and the staff were great. I took part in the Avatar project. Did that about 5 or six times. After about 4 months I went back to my local psychiatric hospital for a couple of years, then I went back into supported accommodation for about 2.5 years. That was when I moved to Papermill. I came in and right away I knew I’d take the accommodation. So I called my psychiatrist and told him. That was 4 years ago. It’s been fantastic, the staff and support are great.

I’ve had quite a few relapses in my mental health, but the staff have always supported me through it.

I’ve never been healthier. I feel better since I moved here. I love my house, it’s beautiful and full of ornaments I’ve collected – tigers and lions mainly – and about eight Marilyn Monroe pictures. One of my tigers belonged to my mum and my sister gave it to me when she passed away. Took me four years, but my house is beautiful.

Penumbra has been absolutely fantastic for me. I haven’t drank for ten years. I feel good in myself and being here. It’s been a long journey to get here. I’m thinking of moving on when I’m 60, but the staff want me to get a place that’s as good as here or better.

Before lockdown, my usual routine would involve my pal, Dennis. I used to go to his house at half eight in the morning and we’d visit all the local charity shops. I’m allowed in his back garden now and we go out for a walks. He’s a good friend. I’ve never been more mentally well except for some blips: ups and downs. Last year I was really mentally unwell. Staff sat with me from first thing in the morning until bedtime and they were a huge support. It’s helpful that I have a buzzer in my house so I know have the security of that support if I need it. Recently, I was hearing voices and two staff members were supporting me. Now the voices have gone, but those staff members supported me through all of that. They help me with my meds and make sure I’m ok if I’m going through a blip. I have my independence, but I have the reassurance of support being there.

I have strategies for keeping well. I like to clean. That relaxes me. I like to meet my pal Dennis and go for walks with staff. I like watching DVDs and tv: I like BBC Parliament and the news. I enjoy listening to music. I lie on my bed listening to music. I’m a good cook and enjoy cooking.

Later, today, I’m going for a walk with Rheanna since it’s good weather. I also purchased a tablet last year. It’s come in really handy with talking to people. I spoke to my psychiatrist for 45 minutes yesterday and it’s great just for a conversation and to see people. My pal purchased a phone and he was telling me he spoke to his brother on it which is good because he’s not seen his brother for months. It’s a good thing to have, especially for older people or people who are isolated.

I’m hoping that all the charity shops open soon. I’m looking forward to getting back to going out with my pal, Dennis. I’m really hoping to get into my pal’s house and get back to my usual routine. But there’s light at the end of the tunnel – I put that on a note on the noticeboard for everyone to see here. I like keeping spirits up. It doesn’t matter how bad things are, always look to the future, it can only get better. I hope that idea helps people in a bad situation – that things will get better for you if you keep looking forward. I’d love it if people find my story inspiring.

Thank you, Peter, for sharing your story with us. If Peter’s inspired you to share, drop us a line communications@penumbra.org.uk

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